Friday, July 4, 2014

Jim Lambek

Word has traveled around the mathematical linguistics community that we recently lost one of our "godfathers," Joachim Lambek. I met Jim during the 2001 Logical Aspects of Computational Linguistics conference which took place at a seaside retreat outside Nantes. After the end of that meeting, a number of us, including Jim and myself, stayed in Nantes for a workshop on learning theory that was held at the university there. I had the pleasure of going to dinner with Jim and some other colleagues on one of the days, but unfortunately Jim tripped at his hotel and broke his wrist later that evening. I waited with him outside his hotel while a colleague of his tried to get him some medical attention. In spite of the pain in his wrist, Jim recalled that I had asked him about procuring a copy of his book with P. J. Scott, Introduction to Higher Order Categorical Logic, which had fallen out of print. He gave me one of his cards and asked me to write my contact information on it.  I was pretty astounded that he would bother to talk to me about that while nursing a broken wrist and waiting for an ambulance in a foreign country. A few weeks later when I was back at the University of Chicago, a copy of the book arrived in the mail. I'm even more grateful that he signed the inside front page.